So, What’s the Standard Firewood Length?

Figuring out how much firewood you need to get through a cold season is tricky enough, but calculating how much heat you can actually expect from a quantity of firewood is even harder. There are a lot of variables to account for, and firewood itself tends to be naturally inconsistent…

split plum tree wood logs
split plum tree wood logs

But one of the variables that we can control most directly is the size of the firewood. It’s important to maintain a consistent size for estimation purposes, but you also need to have an eye for sizing when purchasing to make sure you are getting the right stuff.

But speaking of that, just what is the standard length of a piece of firewood?

The standard length of firewood is 16 inches, a measurement based on the dimensions of a face cord of stacked wood.

That’s what it’s supposed to be, anyway, if you are using traditional measurements for quantities of firewood.

However, it isn’t out of the question that you will run into firewood that is significantly shorter or significantly longer. Sometimes you might need it in a different size!

In all cases, it definitely pays to factor the size of the wood into your calculations. Keep reading and I’ll tell you a lot more on the topic.

16 Inches is the Standard Size for Measuring a Face Cord of Firewood

To clarify, firewood ideally will have a standard size of about 16 inches long. This is because that’s how deep a face cord of wood should be…

A face cord measures 8 feet long by 4 feet high when it’s stacked together tightly and, of course, 16 inches deep. 3 face cords equal a full cord, or you can have a half-face cord if the stack is only 2 feet high instead of 4.

But what people often forget is that even when accounting for quantity using these differing measures, is that all are based on a standard length of 16 inches. You should strive to make sure any firewood you cut fulfills this standard unless you have a good reason!

Longer Pieces are Also Fairly Common

16 inches is the standard length for a piece of firewood as I said above. But the reality is you’ll often find firewood that is much longer. Whether this is by design, sloppy measuring or careless cutting is dependent.

18-inch sections are pretty common because they are a tidier measurement, being 1 ½ feet long instead of 1 ¼ feet. You’ll also find 20-inch pieces and sometimes ones that are a little bit longer, although these are typically sold for use in fire pits and extra-large fireplaces.

These longer pieces, as a rule, won’t fit as easily in wood-burning stoves and other appliances, though some larger models might accommodate them.

Some Stoves and Fireplaces Might Need Shorter Pieces

You might also find that firewood is being sold in much shorter lengths, as short as 8 inches which is suitable for use in mini stoves or supplementing a cook fire with a smaller and easier to control zone of heat.

Unscrupulous Sellers Might Trick You into Buying Short Cords

And, sad to say, it’s hardly uncommon to find unscrupulous firewood sellers who are pawning off 14-inch, 12-inch, or even shorter pieces of firewood on unsuspecting or careless buyers but selling at a market rate expected of the typical 16-inch size.

It might sound frivolous, but assuming it isn’t innocent; if you have a given quantity of wood that can be processed into firewood, skimping out on the length could equal an extra half-face cord or even a whole-face cord, or more. That means more profit in the shady seller’s pocket…

As a precaution, when you are buying firewood from a seller, don’t hesitate to whip out your tape measure and check that length. An honorable seller should not be offended or surprised.

Likewise, if you notice a lot of jagged irregularity on the back side of the stack, you know that they haven’t been particularly careful with the sizing.

Proper Cutting and Chopping Can Save You Work Later

Consider that when you’re chopping your own firewood it’s in your best interest to size it appropriately, and for most applications, this means the typical 16-inch length is best.

Not only is this universally highly efficient, but it also means it’ll fit in pretty much every fireplace and the vast majority of wood-burning stoves and other appliances.

On the other hand, if that standard length is known to be too long to be useful, or easy to work with, you are best served by chopping your wood down to size ahead of time during processing, prior to seasoning.

What you don’t want to happen is that you go through all the trouble of chopping and then seizing your firewood only to have to break it or chop it again so it’s down to a size that will fit in your stove!

Chop once, cry once- or something like that!

Is There Any Advantage to Using Different Sizes of Wood?

Yes, definitely. The best advice I can give you is that you have to understand both your application and your objectives…

If you’re using your firewood primarily for warmth in a stove or a fireplace, what is most critical is that the firewood is sized to fit inside of it comfortably and safely as detailed already.

What is next in importance is that it is small enough to burn completely, but large enough to burn hot and for an extended period of time. You don’t want to be feeding the fire every 15 minutes!

If you are cooking outdoors over a large fire larger pieces of wood might give you greater overall heat over a wider area which could be important if you’re using a grill or grate, or just have multiple pots or Dutch ovens in the fire.

On the other hand, greater control or “zoning” of the fire can be established by building multiple smaller fires using smaller pieces of wood. They’ll burn more quickly, necessitating replenishment, but allow you to fine-tune the amount of heat.

For a bonfire or fire pit, medium-sized pieces that are anywhere from 18 to 20 inches are probably best; if they are too long, they tend to burn up in the middle and leave the ends charred but unconsumed. This is wasteful and makes it difficult to rebuild your fire with them.

So, in short, it all depends on what you’re doing!

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